nigerian male models

Interview: Leonardo Taiwo (D1 Models / Heffner Models)

Pre interview side note - Don’t ask me why it takes me bloody months to type up and upload an interview, it just does okay! My new years resolution is to get better at this posting regularly malarky. Anywho, I really enjoyed interviewing Leonardo. Usually when I interview people I have my set questions, and if its via email there’s no way to deviate from them, but I prefer it when these interactions are conversational which is what interviewing Leonardo was like. Ya know just having a really great chat with someone (who’s drop dead gorgeous) about life and random things. He was really open and receptive to my questions, and it all just flowed along nicely.  Anyway enough gushing! Read the interview below:

First photoshoot/runway experience

My first catwalk show was Astrid Andersson and Sibling, and that was amazing. I got to work with some of the guys that I used to look up to and be like wow. My first photoshoot was with ASOS, a commerical that was filmed in Southend with an amazing cast. It was quite nerve-racking because it was my first job, and I was thinking “oh my God I’m with these guys that have done thousands of other jobs” but yeh it was great.

What were the other models like behind the scenes

Oh they were really really nice, really humble. When I first started out I expected models to be really arrogant and have a cocky attitude but no these guys were lovely. There are some amazing people in this industry

So that whole arrogant model stereotype exists?! Explain! You don’t have to name names!

Oh yeh definitely, it exists. But you can’t really blame them, it can happen to the best of us. It all just goes to their head and you don’t even know it. I think its always best to have great friends or great family who knock you down every time you accomplish something and it gets to your head.

Do you have a core group of model friends that you always hang out with

Surprisingly no, my closest friends are not models at all. They are the most amazing people in my life. One’s a dj, another one is a chef, another one is an actor. I mean nothing against chilling with other models, but I think its more likely to get to your head hanging with people who are the same are you. 

Are they friends that you’ve had for a long time?

Yes definitely, they’re friends for life.

What is the weirdest, craziest, creepiest thing you’ve ever been asked to do as a model?

Last year at grad fashion week I had to wear this lingerie head to toe. and the other was the cock in sock campaign for cancer research for Schon magazine. Yeh that’s one I wouldn’t show my mother!

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How are your parent’s with you modelling? Are they supportive?

My mum is absolutely supportive. She’s always been a dreamer and she appreciates the fact that I dream and my ultimate dream is still to be an actor. Its something I’ve grown up always wanting to be and its fantastic to have a mother that always dreams with you. I come from a Nigerian household and nobody really dreams there, its a land of money or realism. I have such an incredible relationship with my mum, we’re really close friends, and its amazing that I have her full support.**spends a few more minutes gushing about his mum….it’s adorable**

Have you had any embarrassing model related experiences?

There was one casting for a brand, and I was in a queue full of loads of models and the casting agents were selecting the boys that they wanted but I thought they were going to tell those guys to go, I had no idea and I was looking at them like “haha you got’s ta go”, but yeh sadly they told my line to go and that was pretty embarrassing for me. That’s actually happened quite a few times.

What’s the general nature of castings?

You go there with your book, your z card, they look at your book, take a z card, they take your pictures and then you leave.

How many do you go to in a week?

It depends. Sometimes in a busy period like during fashion week, I can go to 7 a day, and in a slow period maybe about 4 a week.

Outside of castings and model jobs what do you do?

I’m pretty much a child! I skate, chill out with my friends etc. I’m quite an indoorsy person, I don’t really rave or go clubbing. I’m pretty chilled. I can spend a day on my laptop doing f-all.

Do you model full-time?

Now yes, but a few months ago I worked in retail in places like Hollister, Abercrombie etc.

Are there any models that you’d really love to work with?

There’s a few but I’m not going to name them in case they think I’m licking their arses or something haha. But it’s a small world especially with black male models. They would probably be surprised that someone like me is looking up to them inspired by their work, but yeh there’s definitely a few.

Okay what about photographers or designers?

Okay photographers - Tom Luke, Tim Walker. Designers - Ozwald Boateng. 

Have you ever experiences racism or prejudice because you’re a black model?

Yep I’ve been approached by a few agencies in Paris, but when it comes to them taking me on, I’ve gotten responses like “there’s no market for black boys here, we can’t do any work for you because you’re black” London and NYC is the best for ethnic models. I don’t think its racism to a personal level, but it’s just how the industry is. I’ve never experienced any personal negative incident.

What do you think about models like Jourdan Dunn or Naomi Campbell that have been really vocal against the racist incidents they've experienced?

I think it’s great that they haven’t let those experiences crush them because its quite easy to let those kind of experiences overwhelm you. They are very powerful women.

Have you spoken to other black male models about their experiences, not just with racism but with modelling as a whole?

Yeh, I mean that’s the best part of modelling -  you met the most amazing people and share experiences. Every casting you met someone new, you let them in, they let you in and that’s how your friendship builds.

Do you guys all recognise each other?

Yeh. It’s very cliché but its just such a small world. I mean if someone does a specific campaign you’re like “oh that’s that guy from so and so’s campaign”

Obviously you’re hugely popular on social media, how has that been?

It’s been amazing. It’s such a privilege. Every time I get posted or get a lot of attention and positivity I’m like why? Is it because I’m topless?! it’s a real confidence boost. Everyone has their insecurities. I definitely don’t look in the mirror and think I’m the shit. So it’s a huge confidence boost to get so much love from everyone.

When did you find out that you had such a huge Tumblr following?

It’s weird, from my friends. Everything you post one of my pictures, one of my friends would message me and I’d be like when was this posted? But its amazing, thank you.

Skincare/workout routine?

Not really. I run a lot. Although not gonna lie I eat a lot of junk. I live next to a chicken and chips shop and they KNOW me! Like sometimes I get freebies that’s how often I’m in there! But for the most part I keep my carb intake to a low. In terms of skin, I can’t sit here and be like “oh I use Olay and it makes my skin amazing”, I take acne medication. My mum has always been like eat your veggies, drink water, etc but I don’t eat my veggies, I eat chicken instead!

What’s your favourite thing about being a model?

The people. You meet some amazing people, that you would expect to be cocky or stereotypical models but they’re just so great like, Kim Sang Woo, he’s an amazing model and his personality is awesome. Mac Phiri, Emmanuel Lawal, Jourdan and Troy Copeland. I can keep going, but these guys are just awesome guys.

You said earlier that your ultimate dream is to be an actor, how are you going about that now?

Honestly I’m kind of lost at the minute. I went to school for 6 years to be an actor before I started modelling, and was actually represented by an talent agency, but unfortunately they let me go, and it crushed me. It really knocked my confidence. I definitely don’t want to go back to drama school, but I’m not really sure where to start now. I’m hoping that I met someone who has faith in me and gives me a shot. It will happen, I have faith in myself and I know it will happen.

Aside from acting, what else you like to do after modelling?

I would love to buy my mum a shop. 5 years ago, she had her own shop that sold african food, and I would love to buy it for her again to have her own shop

You can follow Leonardo on Tumblr & Instagram